**To mark the International Day of the Girl **
The NGO states that millions of girls who stopped going to school when schools were closed due to coronavirus will not return to their studies.
The organisation reminds us that girls who do not go to school are more likely to suffer from various types of violence.
October 9th 2020 .- To mark the International Day of the Girl, which takes place this Sunday, Educo warns of the dire consequences COVID-19 is having on the lives of girls, especially those who live in countries or areas with limited economic resources. “Coronavirus has made the vulnerable situation millions of girls are in around the world even worse. All the work done over the last few years on girls’ rights is also at risk due to the pandemic”, explains the head of Child Protection at the NGO, Laurence Cambianica.
The organisation is especially worried about the fact that millions of girls have had to leave school because of COVID-19. “In some contexts, it is unlikely that parents will allow their daughters to attend school, because they do not always see the benefits that accessing education and being able to continue their studies will have for them and their families. On other occasions, they see it as a risk, because they think that school is not safe or the school is far away from their homes and their daughters have to travel a long way alone to get there. Now, due to confinement, 743 million girls have stopped attending school, according to UN data. We know that many of them, especially those who live in vulnerable situations, will probably not return to school”, explains Cambianica.
The NGO points out that the fact that they do not go to school increases the possibility that girls will be victims to various types of violence, like child marriage. In some contexts, child marriage is seen as a financial solution for the family, because the girl becomes dependent on her husband. Around the world, one in five girls are married or live with a partner before they are 18 years old, according to UN data. This figure can double in countries with more financial difficulties, reaching 40%. “With schools closed and the current crisis, the number of girls who will become victims of child marriage will increase. It is difficult to give an exact figure, but there are estimates from organisations like the United Nations which talk of 13 million more child marriages between 2020 and 2030 than were already estimated. We are seeing a regression in this area, despite the efforts that have been and are being made”, explains the head of Child Protection for the organisation.
One of the direct consequences of child marriage and girls going to live with partners is early pregnancy. “With the saturation of health systems as a result of COVID-19, sexual and reproductive health has taken a back seat. Health centres and family planning have reduced the number of appointments and services they provide. Many of them have even closed down. In the case of girls and adolescents, who are at risk from pregnancy because they are not physically or mentally prepared, all this makes a situation that was already serious even worse”, declares Laurence Cambianica. The team at Educo points out that complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth are one of the leading causes of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.
To reverse this situation, Educo demands that we listen to opinions and proposals from young and adolescent girls, and work alongside them to achieve a more equitable and just society which respects their rights. Additionally, during this crisis Educo demands more involvement on behalf of governments. “On the one hand, social protection measures need to be strengthened so that families do not see marrying their daughters as a solution. But at the same time, it is essential that in parallel specific plans are developed so that girls who are outside the school system, as a result of COVID-19 or for other motives, can return to their studies safely or can access distance learning”, explains the head of Child Protection at the NGO.
Educo is a global development NGO focused on education and child protection which works in 14 countries carrying out projects which include participation from more than 800,000 children.